What was the Banker's reaction after reading the letter in "The Bet"?

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After reading the letter, the banker is tremendously relieved. The lawyer, who has been the banker's prisoner for fifteen years, is asleep, and the banker kisses him gently on the head, begins to weep, and then leaves.

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The banker experiences a whole range of emotions after reading the letter his prisoner is leaving for him in which he relinquishes the two million rubles which would be his if he remained in solitary confinement until the deadline the next morning. For one thing, the banker kisses the man on the head.

When the banker had read this he laid the page on the table, kissed the strange man on the head, and went out of the lodge, weeping. At no other time, even when he had lost heavily on the Stock Exchange, had he felt so great a contempt for himself. When he got home he lay on his bed, but his tears and emotion kept him for hours from sleeping.

The banker cannot understand what the lawyer has learned in fifteen years of solitary study and meditation, but he feels gratitude for being allowed to keep his money even while feeling deeply ashamed of himself for planning to commit dastardly crimes in order to keep it. He was planning to murder his prisoner to get out of paying the bet, and then he was planning to allow one of his servants to be convicted of the crime and sent to Siberia. The prisoner, though unwittingly, has not only given the banker a gift of two million rubles but has spared him the dreaded necessity of committing a cowardly murder.

The banker's reaction to the letter proves that every word of it is true, including these:

"You have lost your reason and taken the wrong path. You have taken lies for truth, and hideousness for beauty. 

He is thoroughly ashamed of himself. He has devoted his life to making and spending money, and now that he is old he realizes that his materialism has never made him happy and never will. He knows he is contemptible. Nevertheless, he is vastly relieved to be able to keep his big home, his money, his servants, his costly possessions, and all his luxuries. He locks the lawyer's letter in a fireproof safe to serve as evidence that he had won the bet, if any question should arise in the future.

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What did the banker do when he read the letter?

At the beginning of the story, the banker arranges a bet with a young man. The banker bets that the young man, a lawyer, cannot live voluntarily in self-isolation for fifteen years. The lawyer accepts the bet, and if he proves the banker wrong, he stands to win two million rubles from the banker.

At the end of the story, the lawyer, or prisoner, is just a few hours away from winning the bet. The banker can no longer afford to lose the bet, and so he decides to kill the lawyer. However, when he enters the lawyer's room, he sees he is asleep and with a letter on the table beside him. The banker reads the letter, in which the prisoner says that he will forfeit the bet because he no longer wants the money. The banker is very relieved, not only because he will now not lose his two million rubles but also because he will no longer need to murder the prisoner. The banker, after reading the letter, lays it back down on the table and then kisses the prisoner on the head while the prisoner is still asleep. This kiss is a sign of the banker's relief and also of his gratitude to the prisoner.

After the banker has left the man's room, he feels "so great a contempt for himself" that he cannot sleep. The banker feels contempt for himself possibly because he is ashamed that he was going to kill the prisoner and possibly because of what he reads in the prisoner's letter. In his letter, the prisoner writes that he despises all "worldly blessings and wisdom," coming to the conclusion that he is "cleverer" than the rest of humanity, which death will wipe "from the face of the earth." He now loathes all earthly things and the way in which people live. Perhaps the banker feels contempt for himself because he recognizes some truth in these sentiments that he has just read in the letter.

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